Since no Pakistani had written anything of significance on the loss of Haji Peer Pass in 1965, I had to bring forth the truth from this side of the border.
- Shakargarh Narowal Border with India
- Trip to Rawalakot Azad Kashmir
- Trip to Mirpur Azad Kashmir
- Trip to Muzaffarabad Azad Kashmir
- Trip to Kotli Azad Kashmir
- Trip to Neelum Valley Azad Kashmir
- Trip to Domel Minimarg Azad Kashmir
When I saw the beautiful haji peer pass at the center of the strategically important Bedori Bulge, on the Line of Control, Kashmir, images of Indian troops raising their flag there flashed through my mind.
India has been carving up all the higher features along the Line of Control Kashmir, starting from Siachen to Jammu with little fear of reprisal.
- History of Pakistan India Wars and who won them
- Why Pakistan cannot get along with India
- Talks with Pakistan are in Indian interest
This is the story of one such treachery.
Why is Haji Peer Pass Important to India?
India has always had their eye on this relatively easily crossable Himalayan pass (8650 feet) on the Pir Panjal range as the rest are higher than 10,000 feet.
Haji Peer closes the loop for India starting from
- Srinagar-Baramulla-Uri toward North and
- Srinagar-Shopian-Poonch toward South.
The Haji Peer Pass also reduces the direct distance from Uri to Poonch, from 250 to 56 km.
The rest of the Pir Panjal Passes are Snow clad all year round while Haji Peer Pass thaws from April through August.
This mountainous pass lies just above Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city.
Who has Haji Peer Pass now?
Pakistan has possession of Haji Pir Pass and the Bedori Bulge
Who was Haji Peer?
Haji Peer was just one of the five Pirs of Panjal
His father was also a saint near Kabul.
Legend says that Haji Peer arrived in Kashmir with Shahab ud Din Ghauri in 1175.
How Pir Panjal Range got its name?
The legend says that Pir Panjal Range in India held Kashmir is named after the five Peers of Azad Kashmir.
These Saints were siblings originating from Central Asia, the spiritual center of Mughal era Pakistan.
Panjal means “five siblings” – these were
- Peer Kanthi (the only lady peer that I know of )
- Haji Peer on the western fringe of Pir Panjal Range.
- Neza Pir
- Sar Pir on the Western ridge of Haji Peer
- Toli Peer, overlooking Rawalakot.
Why did I go to Haji Peer Pass?
- Over the years I had been reading about the massive Division-level force India had unleashed to capture Haji peer pass in 1965 and I had to revisit this event myself.
- My visit to Haji Pir was a tribute to the courage of the brave souls who gave up their lives for a cause they thought was bigger than themselves.
- I wanted to know for myself, where Pakistan was wrong and how it was wronged.
- I can understand why India would love to annex the Bedori Bulge, but why the Pakistani dictator failed to cover all angles – is beyond me.
- Then, there was also the need to feed my wanderlust to venture into territories that no man has gone before – at least no ordinary Pakistani does.
- My grandparents would talk of Uri and Srinagar like it was their backyard.
- Even my old aunt asked me to bring holy water from Haji Peer Shrine to heal herself.
- This is the spot in Pakistan’s possession closest to Srinagar, Kashmir – Pakistan’s dream city.
My road trip to Haji Peer Pass and Shrine in Kashmir
My trusted 4×4 vehicle, the bedrock of my impulsive missions, did not let me down this time either.
Haji Peer Pass is 208 km from Islamabad and cannot be covered in a single day.
The time taken to get there depends on whether it snows or pours in the last 20 km, after Lasdana.
One night’s stay in-between is essential to get the required rest.
Route Map of Haji Peer Pass
There are three routes to Haji Peer from Islamabad
- Islamabad- Lower Topa Murree- Kohala-Dhirkot-Bagh-Lasdana-Haji Peer
- Islamabad-Kahuta-Rawalakot-Bagh-Lasdana-Haji Peer
You can also climb to Haji Peer from Forward Kahuta, but the time to get to Forward Kahuta is at least 2 h extra from Islamabad i.e. 7 h.
What Kind of Vehicle can go to Haji Peer?
I have seen
- Suzuki cars
- 4×4 vehicles that you can book from Bagh or even Rawalakot.
- Toyota Hiace
Which is the best time to visit Haji Pir?
The best time to visit Haji Peer Shrine is May to July when the ice thaws
It rains every day on the road from Lasdana to haji peer, so keep that in mind.
Things to see on Rawalakot Bagh Route
Bagh is on the Nala Mahir River and the town itself is exquisite.
Before Bagh is Rawalakot and there a few things to see there as well.
Lightning strikes at regular intervals along the ridges and without warning.
Do tourists go to Haji Peer Pass?
Iron-willed Tourists on motorcycles have ventured to Haji peer Pass, but it is one giant slog.
Usually, Tourists drive from Bagh to Lasdana and down to Forward Kahuta, avoiding the trouble of being blown up by Indian artillery guns.
Are there hotels in Haji Peer?
There are several hotels and guest houses at Bagh, and one government rest house a Lasdana too, but none beyond that.
Time from Islamabad to Haji Peer Kashmir
Theoretically, Haji Peer Pass is just 6 h from Islamabad, it takes 7 h.
Islamabad to Lasdana is 5 h and then it is 2 h more to Haji peer Pass.
This last 20 km from Lasdana is the stony path, where the vehicle would drive faster if it had feet instead of tyres.
Can you take your family there?
I took my family with me, so everyone else can too.
Check posts along the way to Haji Peer Pass
I was stopped at four check posts along the way.
- Kahuta Check post – absolutely unnecessary and a pure nuisance. How do they hope to catch spies and terrorists on the main road says a lot about the IQ of security authorities there?
- Azad Pattan Check Post, a few kilometers into Sudhnuti territory, this check post asks your origin and purpose of visit – tourism has been stopped during COVID lockdown but is expected to open up in June.
- Lasdana base Check post – this police check post does not allow any non-local to drive up because of COVID restrictions.
- Lasdana top check post – this is a military area, non-locals are barred from visiting this area especially during shelling by Indian troops, which is a shame considering it is one of the most beautiful areas in Kashmir to see.
Is the Line of Control at Haji Peer still hot?
Even today, India keeps raining down accurate artillery fire from various high-altitude posts that it has become the habit of snatching from ill-equipped Pakistani forces over the decades.
India dares not mess with bigger bullies like China or USA.
Also, see India China conflict over Ladakh
What is there to see in Haji Pir?
Haji Peer pass still has mesmerizing views all along but that is if you have the will and resources to reach there across
- endless check posts,
- bad weather,
- bad roads and
- Scarce guest houses.
There is a Shrine and devotee complex at Haji Peer as well.
The Shrine and devotees’ complex is leveled out in the artillery fire since 1965 is rebuilt every time.
How did India succeed in Occupying Haji Pir Pass so easily?
In 1965, panicked by the unrest created by irregular infiltrators from Pakistani Kashmir in Operation Gibraltar, India launched a pronged attack on three axes to secure the shoulders and then take Haji Peer Headquarters.
- An Indian division was up against a ragtag militia on the Pakistani side comprising 20 Punjab, 10 Baloch along with AK Reserves.
- India succeeded in treacherously occupying this pass in 1965 when Dictator Ayub Khan was looking the other way.
- Pakistan posts were isolated and poorly supplied.
- Reinforcements were at least two days away, while India took over in one day.
- Pakistani state institutions, especially political ones, were not mature enough to take up a gigantic undertaking like war.
India held on to Pakistani land for five months, while negotiations were ongoing in 1965.
All these areas were eventually returned to Pakistan in exchange for land Pakistan had occupied in Chamb Sector up to Akhnoor.
- India managed to defy international law not only by crossing the line of Control in Kashmir, but also the international border at Lahore, without any fear of international backlash.
- Then it was also the shallowness of the Pakistani dictator too by not conducting a thorough debate on political outcomes of launching the 1965 war with India– dictators usually are that way.
For the 100th time, wars are won in international capitals by the size of your wallet and strength of national institutions – not on the battlefield.
I hope that someone listens this time.
Historic Lasdana to Haji Peer ridge
My journey into history started when I took the unprepared road from Lasdana top toward Haji peer top.
This road runs along the razor-sharp edge of this Haji peer ridge passing through Sankh, Lade Wali Gali, and then Haji Peer.
Sankh is the Western edge of Haji Peer Bulge and Bedori Top is the South Eastern edge.
While I was driving to Haji peer, the locals along the route advised me to climb down from the ridge and turn right toward Forward Kahuta.
They said that it would get dark soon, but I kept pressing on.
Then I came to the Gali where the gallant soldiers and irregulars of the Pakistan army and local tribesmen put up a fierce counterattack and dislodge Indians from Bisali, against overwhelming odds.
Chaudhary Jehanzeb, a local numberdaar was amongst the martyrs.
They stood no chance, all of them were cut down one by one and were buried where they fought.
This is the only place I prayed for their sacrifice and divine help against Pakistan’s elite to relinquish power to people based on merit.
Arrival at Haji Peer Pass
After a series of hairpin turns, I finally made it to Haji peer pass
From the helipad of Haji peer pass, I could see
- Bedori Top (12228 ft.)
- Pakistani and Indian positions
- Uri Indian Cantonment
- Poonch City
- Haji Peer Shrine and Pilgrims quarters.
- Peer Panjal Range
Uri is the same infamous Indian Cantonment that was humiliated by Kashmiri resistance in 2016
The Witch Indra Gandhi even landed her Chopper at Haji Peer Shrine to gloat over her treacherous and scornful behavior against a weak neighbor.
India is probably the only country in the world that has managed to occupy territory in Kashmir for seven decades, while people don’t want them there.
India has still not returned some posts around Haji peer that they had occupied in 1965 yet.
What else is there to see in Haji Peer?
Climbing down from Haji Peer top, on the road toward Forward Kahuta, there is
- Another beautiful top called the Maanji Shaheed top and
- The waterfall at Aliabad.
- Neel Ferry Top and Lake at Forward Kahuta
The return journey can be planned through Forward Kahuta if you plan to spend the night there.
Dare to venture toward haji peer pass, if you have a passion for adventure and a love of history.
Pakistan must build its border roads robust enough to launch a punishing counter maneuver to dislodge Indian encroachment and their quest for higher ground along the Line of Control, especially Haji Peer pass. All these sites must be opened for tourism, so that people pray for our martyrs.